I have never felt rich. Although I’ve never felt poor either. I do sometimes realize my family struggled when we lived in inner city Chicago in the 1980’s. And I know things changed when we moved to the suburbs of the south. But, we never seemed to lack those things we needed although I occasionally lacked the things I wanted. I always had clothes, shoes, books, and tunes, although they might not have been the newest or freshest. I always had food, often in excess and therefore clothes that were for the “larger kids”.
This continued for years as I had enough to eat throughout the college years, although there were times of having to forgo the steak in favor of the discounted chicken or just some potatoes. Times when that 5 lb block of Tillamook had to last 3 weeks or I had to split the discounted appetizer sampler and only get water after the Cru meeting or when I couldn’t buy lunch even though I forgot my sack of food at home. Sadly, some days I thought I was really roughing it.
But things changed. First, I hitchhiked and backpacked throughout Alaska and the States in 1999, and learned to live with less. Then, 4 years later I went to Asia, specifically Kathmandu and Calcutta (Kolkata) where I saw utter poverty. Where a bowl of rice that barely would have satisfied me for one meal was turned into porridge for an entire 8 member family. Not only couldn’t some people buy new clothes, but their old ones were worse than the rags I threw out. The only thing making up some of their shirts were the threads that mended them years ago. Fathers and mothers were handing food to their children to eat while starving themselves. Children were sent to orphanages because their parents didn’t have the income to take care of them, not because they were truly orphaned.
One day a few of us saw a tuk tuk driver’s home. It was a single room where his 10 member family slept on or under their one bed, and sat on that same “bed” to read or talk during the day. There was a communal cooking area for the community that, in my memory, was just a gas burner and firepit. He said that on a good day he made as much as we spent on one meal, and his single income determined his large family’s livelihood. We also saw a place where they make those flip flops you buy at the dollar store. How much do you think those workers made?
So some of you might think I am exaggerating- I am not. Others might feel like you can’t do anything-you can!
Surprisingly, even if you work for minimum wage— and, honestly, most of you reading this don’t— you are in the top 13% of the richest people in the world*. That is according to the global rich list which rated me in the top 4.6% with a non-corporate office job, and rates anyone over $47,500 in the top 1%.
Now I know that a loaf of bread or bowl of rice is cheaper in some countries than where you live. I know it doesn’t cost the same for an apartment in Iowa, California and Kalamazoo. I know. I get it. My bills pile up as well, but it truly is different to be poor in America and to be in poverty in other nations without clean water, electricity, or the ability to make clothes.
All this information floating around in my head is why one day this week, this Wednesday, I am working for free, basically. I am donating my wages to One Day’s Wages for that day. The money that might have bought me a few meals out or a few more books that would sit on the bookshelf— not being read— will provide at least 7 people clean water for the next 20 years with Charity Water
WHAT? Yes, my one day’s wages will help people for at least 20 years!
So you want to join me? Click here
Just want to give half a day or a full week’s wages? Click here
Want to help with First aid in Africa or Haiti rebuild? Click here
Have another great organizational idea? Click here
Just do something and don’t be a slacktivist!
*For you math majors, I estimated 30 hours a week (since most minimum wage jobs are not full time) and 52 weeks a year (since most workers don’t take time off) by the $7.75 per hour minimum to equal $11,310 and 13%.